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Junk food in schools to be banned soon?

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The number of children who are tackling obesity and problems like fatty liver are increasing by the day, thanks to the sedentary lifestyle and bad food choices.

To improve nutrition among school-going children, Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi plans to propose a ban on unhealthy or 'junk' food in school canteens across the country. The objective is to 'make available good quality, safe food to students in school canteens', said officials from the WCD Ministry. 'The idea is also to specify what constitutes 'junk' food and making children aware why they are harmful,' said an official.

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Gandhi plans to discuss the matter with the Health and Human Resource Development (HRD) ministries. The mid-day meal scheme comes under the HRD ministry. The health ministry?s Food Safety and Security of India (FSSAI) is already working on guidelines proposing healthy food on school premises. The Delhi High Court has also been studying into the regulation of sale of junk food and aerated drinks in and around school premises in the country. (Read: How do I stop my kid from eating junk food?)

The court is hearing the PIL filed by Uday Foundation seeking an immediate ban on junk food and carbonated drinks in all unaided and private schools. The NGO has also sought a direction to initiate measures to discourage availability of fast food within 500 yards of schools in Delhi, apart from a canteen policy. The court has also been asking FSSAI to come out with comprehensive guidelines for regulating sale of junk food and aerated drinks in and around school premises in the country. (Read: Are you surprised how many junk food brands your kids love?)

How much junk food does your kid's school sell?

The Delhi High Court Wednesday stressed the need to specify the junk food items that should be regulated in schools. Hearing a plea seeking a ban on junk food in and around schools, the court asked advocate Neeraj Kishan Kaul, the amicus curiae in the case, to segregate the portion enforceable in the draft guidelines submitted by an expert panel.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog asked the amicus curie to submit a report within three weeks and posted the matter for further hearing Aug 6. The court's order came on a plea filed by social activist Rahul Verma of the NGO Uday Foundation, who demanded a ban on the sale of junk food in schools. It further wanted the high court to initiate measures to discourage availability of fast food within 500 yards of schools in Delhi, besides formulating a canteen policy. The draft guidelines recommended 'restricting/limiting availability of junk food' in schools and nearby areas, instead of complete ban that was submitted by the working group.

The experts who drafted the guidelines are split on the issue. Environmentalist Sunita Narain, who was part of the expert panel to render opinion on dietary habit and consumption of junk food amongst school children, alleged that the original recommendations were diluted to accommodate and protect the food industry.

With inputs from PTI

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